Funding setback for 'Sunday Business' launch

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The Independent Online
Britain's first business-only Sunday newspaper was insisting last night that its launch this weekend will go ahead despite the loss of its main potential backer earlier this week. Senior executives of Sunday Business spent yesterday frantically seeking fresh financial backing, after a second big potential backer on Wednesday broke off pre-launch negotiations.

Senior staff were told yesterday morning of difficulties but were assured by Tom Rubython, the founder and editor, that the newspaper was going ahead, and the 65 journalists were writing for the launch.

"The paper is looking good, there are plenty of scoops, it will be a crying shame if we cannot come out," one senior reporter said.

An official spokesman for Sunday Business denied there were any launch problems.

"I can assure you no backer has pulled out. If there is an issue it is about the phasing of investments," he said. "The difficulties are purely because we were relying on a potential backer coming on board and he is not, so there is a possible issue of post-launch money."

The chequered history of the launch, which already included one postponement and a pulled float on the Alternative Investment Market, took a marked turn for the worse on Tuesday when the biggest potential investor, the Hinduja family from Bombay, finally pulled out.

Problems over payment had reportedly already emerged with West Ferry Printers, half-owned by the Daily Telegraph, which were casting doubt on being able to print this weekend. Sunday Business said it had a fall- back printing plan.

The newspaper has booked television advertising slots for tonight and Saturday ahead of the launch.

It is believed that Sunday Business's initial cash funding is now close to exhaustion. Management assurances failed to dispel the gloom among staff about the newspaper's prospects.

One senior editor yesterday confided fears that the chances of the newspaper launching this weekend were slim unless last-minute talks to raise bridging finance bore fruit.

The costs so far have been largely borne by Mr Rubython himself, who is said to have sunk about pounds 1.5m into the venture. The plan was to raise a further pounds 10m to cover the start-up financing. In February, Sunday Business abandoned a plan to float on AIM, after receiving a cool response from would-be shareholders.

Mr Rubython had been negotiating with the Hinduja brothers, who have an international investment business, as the potentially biggest investor, but they finally pulled out on Tuesday. Talks with another unnamed significant backer then reportedly ran into difficulties the following day, and one senior executive said they were not expected to return to the table before this weekend's planned launch.

Other senior Sunday Business executives are believed to be continuing discussions with potential backers.

One possibility now being raised is that, should Mr Rubython fail to complete the financial arrangements, he would step aside as editor.